Heineken Cup 2014: Toulon end Glasgow’s faint Euro hopes
Heineken Cup 2014: Toulon book their place in the last eight after a 15-8 victory over Glasgow Warriors on Saturday
Jonny Wilkinson was one of the stars as the World Cup winner guided Toulon to a home Heineken Cup quarter-final with a victory over Glasgow Warriors on Saturday night.
The reigning Heineken Cup champions led 6-3 at half-time as Wilkinson and Ruaridh Jackson exchanged kicks, but survived a spirited second-half performance and a Warriors try from Chris Fusaro in Pool 2 as Wilkinson added a further three penalties.
Reacting to the defeat at full-time, Warriors head coach Gregor Townsend said: “I thought we played really well today. The effort was fantastic, I thought defensively we did really well, and we played with a lot of attacking intent in not great conditions.
“Yes, there were mistakes there. There were opportunities to make more of what ball we had, but we played well against a top-quality side.
“The more the feeling the players get knowing that they’ve matched the best in Europe.
“The heart as well – we weren’t able to get a try at the end, we weren’t able to capitalise when we had a penalty close to the line, but also that confidence: we’ve beaten Exeter home and away, we’ve picked up a bonus point against Toulon away from home and came very close to winning or drawing at home, so we’ve got to do better.
“We know we lost in Europe in the two games against Cardiff, but we did match ourselves very well today.”
With a slim chance of reaching the Amlin Cup quarter-finals with a win and results elsewhere going their way, the Warriors contrived to continue their run in the pool of giving away cheap penalties in the opening stages.
But it took until the 27th minute for Wilkinson to get the first score after an early drop-goal attempt was charged down and his first kick at goal on 17 minutes went wide.
Jackson levelled the score just three minutes later, before Wilkinson ensured the visitors went in at half-time with a narrow lead after converting his second kick three minutes before the break.
Wilkinson extended Toulon’s lead to six points with two successful penalties in the opening 11 minutes of the second half before Warriors head coach Townsend began to empty the replacements bench.
The visitors were reduced to 14 men on 54 minutes when Sebastien Tillous-Borde was sin-binned for a late tackle on Alex Dunbar, but any hope the Warriors had of taking advantage were dashed just two minutes later as Fijian Niko Matawalu, shifted to the wing from his usual scrum-half position, was adjudged to have deliberately knocked-on.
To compound the frustration of the home support, Wilkinson gave his side a 15-3 lead with his fifth successful kick from the resulting penalty.
With Exeter in the lead against Cardiff at the Arms Park, the Warriors still had a chance of reaching the Amlin quarters and continued to battle against Toulon, scoring the only try of the match through match-day captain Fusaro, with referee JP Doyle seeking confirmation from the TMO raised his arm to set up a thrilling finale in Glasgow’s west end.
With the score at 15-8, Weir’s conversion slid wide of the right-hand upright, leaving the Scotstoun crowd praying for a converted try that would give them a historic draw against one of Europe’s premier sides.
Despite laying siege to the Toulon tryline for the final 10 minutes, led by a breakaway from converted centre Richie Vernon, the Warriors failed to steal their way through a Toulon defensive effort which grew strength as the home side threw everything, including a 13-man lineout, at Bernard Laporte’s men.
The final seconds of the match ticked away with the nerves of a vocal Scotstoun support fraying as the Warriors failed to capitalise inside the Toulon five-metre line.
An attempt to send the ball to the opposite flank after the 80 minutes were up saw Toulon push forward to their 22, but any hope of succeeding was ended as the erratic Weir sent the ball into straight into touch.
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